This is a month of harvest so make the most of it. Pick vegetables when they are young because as they mature both flavour and texture become coarser and some plants, such as courgettes, actually respond to harvesting by producing more flowers and fruits right into the autumn.
Harvest - everything! Your garden will be producing prolifically and the bounty should be stunning! Dig up root crops (apart from parsnips which taste better after a frost) and potatoes before slugs wreak their damage and dry thoroughly before storing in boxes or paper sacks; remember to evict any diseased or rotten tubers or they will spoil the rest of your crop. Fast maturing vegetables such as beans, courgettes, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes must be picked regularly or they lose their youthful freshness and become stringy, tough and bitter. Any outdoor tomatoes should be picked by the end of the month and ripened inside; keep them on their trusses for the 'on the vine' look and make chutney out of any that refuse to ripen. Marrows, pumpkins and squashes should be left in the sun for a few days to harden the skin and dry them off before storing in a cool, dark place.
Herbs - sow parsley, cut and freeze herbs in ice cube trays and pot up chives and mint for the winter. Lift a clump, divide and pot using multi-purpose compost. Cut back old foliage, water well and wait for your winter crop to appear.
Harvest - damsons, blackberries, autumn raspberries, loganberries, tayberries, nectarines, apricots, early apples and pears. You can tell when they are ripe if they come off the tree with an easy twist and there are a couple on the ground. Destroy any apples spotted with brown rot which will otherwise spread to healthy ones. Blackberry and apple pie must be one of Britain's greatest treats - now is the time to make it!
Protect your fruit - birds and wasps love fruit as much as you do; think about investing in a fruit cage for next year if your crop is disappearing in front of your eyes!
Prune - cut out fruited canes of summer raspberries and tie in any new canes for next year. Make sure you only keep the healthy canes and cut out weaker stems, especially rogues that appear in pathways and the like.
Plant - new fruit trees from mid September onwards once any really dry weather is over. New trees prefer warmish soil to establish their root systems, especially nectarines and peaches. Other fruit trees can be planted later as they are less cold sensitive.
September is the prime time for planting spring bulbs; choose plump firm bulbs and plant within a week of buying in a location with good drainage. Add a little bonemeal for a slow-release fertiliser and grit if the soil is heavy. Ensure pots and containers have plenty of crocks at the bottom. Bury bulbs at twice the depth of their size, tip upwards and ensure there are no air pockets around them. Use them to fill gaps in beds and borders, in formal gardens, in pots and containers, under shrubs and trees or naturalised in grass or woodland.
Make your life easier by investing in a strong good quality dibber and if you have a bad back, a long handled bulb planter.
Start with narcissi, alliums, crocuses, scillas and chionodoxas - tulips should be left until November.
For a natural look, throw handfuls of bulbs in the air and plant them where they land.
The last chance to plant indoor bulbs to be in flower (hopefully!) for Christmas is mid September. Use bulb fibre or multi-purpose compost with a little added grit, set the bulbs as close as they can possibly be in a bowl at least 4" deep, preferably with a drainage hole. Narcissi and hyacinths should have their noses just showing - all other bulbs (crocuses, scillas and tulips are good candidates) must be covered completely. Make sure the compost is well below the rim of the bowl and leave in a cool dark place inside. Don't let the compost dry out and when the leaves are 1 - 2" high move into a cool room; when flower buds appear move into full light – preferably again in a coolish room…Good luck!
Plant new perennials and bring tender ones into shelter. While the soil is moist and warm, plant hardy perennials so their roots have a chance to become established before winter. Water well before and after planting and ensure you choose plants that are appropriate for your soil type! Lift and bring tender perennials inside before frosts cause any damage.
Deadhead dahlias, chrysanthemums, asters and any other spent flowers to keep the garden looking tidy and to encourage dahlias to reflower.
Support and divide! Autumn can be windy so make sure tall flowers are supported. Once perennials have finished flowering, cut them back and divide large clumps by lifting carefully and separating down the centre with 2 forks back to back. Replant with plenty of organic matter and water generously. Remember some perennials, such as peonies, loathe being disturbed so check before you dig them up.
Collect seed heads from perennials, alpines, trees and shrubs. Growing plants from seeds you have collected is fantastically rewarding, but be vigilant; seed heads have a nasty habit of ripening and popping whilst your back is turned. Collect when nearly ripe - just as they are turning brown. Snip them off, put them in a paper bag, label and hang somewhere cool, dark and dry.
If your alpines have outgrown their present home, move to their new location now with a generous ball of soil around the roots and water well once in situ.
Plant winter bedding and spring bulbs in your pots and containers now. Stop feeding permanent plants and move any tender plants under cover before the cold sets in.
Buy and plant out violas, wallflowers and primulas now for cheery colour come springtime. Clear old summer bedding, incorporate some organic matter into the soil and plant in drifts for stunning effect. Remember not to grow wallflowers and ornamental cabbages in the same spot two year running; they are brassicas and need rotation to avoid the root disease 'clubfoot', which is not only infectious, but persists in the soil.
Reduce the frequency of mowing now and towards the end of the month. Scarify (rake out the old dead grass and moss) by hand (hard work!) or with a machine, spike to improve drainage again either by hand with a garden fork or with a machine, add a top dressing of soil/sand/compost mixed according to your soil type (ask for advice at your local garden centre if you are unsure) and feed with autumn lawn feed. This low-nitrogen feed strengthens grass in preparation for winter; do not use spring lawn feed as this encourages grass to grow and it may not survive the cold. After all this your lawn will look dreadful, but fear not, it will benefit enormously from the regime. Repair bumps, hollows, bald patches and broken edges too.
Now is the time to start making a new lawn. Good preparation is vital whether you are laying turf or sowing seed: remove weeds and stones, dig over thoroughly, adding organic matter and fertiliser, rake smooth, firm by walking up and down and rake again at right angles, repeating the raking and firming process until the area is flat and the surface is a fine crumb texture. Sow seed according to the packet instructions and lay turf in a brick pattern so no joints are in line. Water well and keep off for 4 to 5 weeks.
Member since: 27th February 2014
After 30 yrs of experience in the Horticultural Industry building two garden centres from green field sites and a wholesale nursery I thought it time for a change.Although this is a complete change of...